Face coverings advised from Wednesday as coronavirus lockdown adjusts but confusion grows

  • Video report by ITV News Political Reporter Shehab Khan

The wearing of face coverings in public will be encouraged from Wednesday to help slow the spread of coronavirus, Dominic Raab has confirmed, as he set out to clarify the prime minister's lockdown adjustments.

The foreign secretary told ITV News that face coverings "don't really have much of an impact" in protecting the wearer, but they can "provide an incremental mitigation" of the risk to other people.

On the government's 'morning round' of media interviews Mr Raab was hoping to answer some of the many questions raised by Boris Johnson's Sunday evening national address, in which he set out a "road map" for ending lockdown.

The Sunday speech was hotly anticipated by the public hoping major changes to the lockdown, and newspaper reports in the week had front pages suggesting restrictions would be lifted.

But the very minor adjustments - including a tweak to coronavirus messaging which changed "stay at home" to "stay alert" - caused many to demand clarity.

Other adjustments mean from Wednesday, people will be allowed to have "unlimited" outdoor exercise and those who cannot work from home should return to work, so long as social distancing can be observed.

Outdoor meetings between people of different households are one area of contention, with many hoping they could finally see loved ones they've been forced to separate from.

Earlier Mr Raab said people could, for example, meet with both of their parents in a park, so long as they are a safe distance apart - but officials were forced to clarify shortly after, saying Mr Raab had got it wrong.

In fact, people can only meet with one individual from a different household at one time.

It's also unclear exactly who should return to work, with confusion over which firms can operate safely with social distancing.

The PM will provide a detailed 50-page plan to gradually ease the coronavirus lockdown when the government publishes its official guidance.

He posted an eight tweet thread to Twitter ahead of the document being released, repeatedly urging people to "stay alert".

Mr Johnson will also face MPs on Monday to offer more information and he's sure to face questioning from the likes of Labour's Keir Starmer and the SNP's Ian Blackford.

Both criticised the government's plan, which did not include Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, calling for "consensus" among all UK nations.

All nations of the UK other than England are keeping their "stay at home" message and are continuing to largely enforce their lockdowns.

Labour leader Sir Keir said the announcement lacked “clarity and consensus”, while “effectively telling millions of people to go back to work tomorrow” without clear guidelines.

He said: “This statement raises as many questions as it answers, and we see the prospect of England, Scotland and Wales pulling in different directions.”

Mr Johnson will offer answers to MPs in a statement to the Commons, with more information expected on a Covid-19 alert system, use of face coverings and the return of professional football.

Further details are also expected on plans to impose a 14-day quarantine on people flying into the UK and on a five-tier alert system to inform relaxation and strengthening of measures.

Speaking to ITV News, Mr Raab said those who may be in closed spaces with people from other households will be encouraged to wear a covering on their face.

He said: “There’s a difference between masks which are used in a clinical setting for doctors, nurses, care home workers and face coverings - the kind of DIY cloth mask that someone might put together at home.

“In relation to face coverings, they don’t really have much of an impact in terms of protecting the person wearing it but they can provide an incremental mitigation of the risk of transmission to other people.

“So we will say from Wednesday, in areas where you worry that you may be enclosed spaces with other people or with other people not from your own home, that we will encourage people in those particular circumstances to wear a face covering.”

The starting point for lockdown fines in England will rise to £100 from Wednesday.

The first fine will be lowered to £50 if paid within 14 days, according to the Home Office.

Fines will double for each repeat offence, up to a maximum of £3,200.

It is not yet clear if the same changes to fines will be adopted in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

There is a difference between face masks and face coverings, Dominic Raab explained. Credit: PA

Meanwhile, the ONS said that several occupations had raised rates of deaths involving Covid-19, including taxi drivers and chauffeurs (36.4 deaths per 100,000), bus and coach drivers (26.4 deaths per 100,000), chefs (35.9 deaths per 100,000), and sales and retail assistants (19.8 deaths per 100,000).

Men working as security guards had one of the highest rates, with 45.7 deaths per 100,000.